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Ethnography for the Internet: exploring multiple meanings of minimal infrastructures

Ethnography for the Internet: exploring multiple meanings of minimal infrastructures
Hosted by: Sociology # University of Edinburgh; Speaker: Christine Hine # University of Surrey
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Date and Time
18th Nov 2015 11:00 - 18th Nov 2015 13:00
CMB - 6th floor common room

Seminar Series

This presentation will explore some promising ethnographic strategies that help us in finding out what the Internet means to its users. Even in the face of big data approaches to social science research ethnography remains a very promising approach to investigation of the Internet, because it is highly flexible in the forms of data that it explores, it focuses on the detail of lived experience and it is open to unexpected insights on the nature and meaning of its research objects. To illustrate these points, the presentation will focus on examples from alternative consumption: sites such as GumTree, Freecycle, Freegle and local Facebook buying and selling groups which allow people to give away, or monetise their unwanted goods. These sites offer a very minimal infrastructure to facilitate the exchange of objects between people who live in a defined local area. The presentation will outline some of the diverse ways in which people make sense of these sites and of the other members of the local population that they come into contact with through use of the sites. A variety of ethnographic strategies are used to uncover these meaning-making practices, including observation online and offline, interviews conducted face-to-face and via email and autoethnography. Agile ethnographic strategies, and a very open approach to the definition of the research object, prove fruitful.